Access, privilege, kindness, respect.

In honor of this week’s 27th Anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), this post is being republished from the 25th Anniversary of the ADA about the profound parallels of the ADA and passage of same sex marriage.

The American with Disabilities Act (ADA), when passed 25 years ago this month, opened up, not to mention, legalized access for the 26 million Americans who live with a disability. People finally had the legal right to access public transportation. It was at last legal to take someone to court over employment discrimination. Public places, like restaurants and stores, had to become ADA compliant and provide accommodations for people.

Now granted, there’s still a lot of work and complying to do to create universal access, but the ADA has been a monumental act. I believe it helped catapult the recognition and value of people with disabilities.

I believe it also invoked something else – kindness and respect. The ADA essentially said, “Okay, we get it now. You need a curb cut, so as a nation that prides ourselves on equality for all, we’re going to make that happen. We’re doing it because we finally get that it’s our duty to make access easier for you (kindness) and we respect that you’re entitled to the same privileges (being able to use a sidewalk) as anyone else.”

Two weeks ago, the US Supreme Court legalize same sex marriage throughout the country. I realize this is a hot button issue and you may disagree with me, but take a moment to hear how this heterosexual woman with a disability sees it and how to me, it’s very akin to what the ADA did for people with disabilities.

Many people are born with disabilities, something that is innate to our being. I have always believed that our sexual orientation is something we’re born with. Can you explain why you’re heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual? If you can, please share in the comments below, because I can’t. I just know that beginning early on, I was attracted to men beginning with Shaun Cassidy (yes, those of you born after 1980 won’t even know who that is).

So like people with disabilities, why should gay people not have the access and privilege of marriage just because of something inherent to their being?

While my husband and I view our marriage as sacred, as this same sex marriage issue has been duked out, we see how legal marriage is more a privilege. As a self-employed person, I got a huge “raise” when I married because I could go on my husband’s insurance and stop paying $500 a month for health insurance. That was just a privilege at the time because I entered into an opposite sex marriage (how come we don’t say that more?).

When we adopted our son, we could easily submit a copy of our marriage license and no further questions we asked. We BOTH became his legal parents. That’s a privilege.

I could go on, but I think you get my point. The ADA granted the PRIVILEGE of ACCESS that so many assume is a right because they’re Americans. Legalizing same sex marriage grants the ACCESS to the PRIVILEGE of marriage that so many assume is their right as human beings.

At the core of passing these two significant laws is, whether or not people are aware of it, the crucial elements of kindness and respect for people different than ourselves. Isn’t that what our world needs more of?



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